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Will Smith readily admits that he has had a few duds in his acting career, but one movie failure hit him particularly hard, he told Esquire in a 2015 interview. He explained how the fail was “excruciating” to him because his son was involved in the project.

Jaden Smith and Will Smith attend the 26th annual EMA Awards at Warner Bros. Studios on October 22, 2016
Jaden Smith and Will Smith | Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Will Smith called ‘After Earth’ the ‘most painful failure’ for him

Smith hasn’t been immune to box office flops — it happens to the best actors in the business. When his movie After Earth didn’t live up to expectations, he said it hit him hard, explaining how his son Jaden Smith’s involvement in the film made it “the most painful failure in my career.”

During the Esquire interview, Smith recalled the wise words of Daphne Maxwell Reid, Aunt Viv on Fresh Prince, who said, “Don’t let success go to your head and failure go to your heart.”

“That was a valuable lesson for me a few years ago with After Earth. That was the most painful failure in my career,” he explained.

When the interviewer asked, “Worse than Wild Wild West?,” Smith admitted that, “Wild Wild West was less painful than After Earth because my son was involved in After Earth and I led him into it. That was excruciating.”

Smith learned a lot from that failure

Despite the setback and the devastation about his son’s involvement in the movie, the actor said he really learned a great deal. “What I learned from that failure is how you win. I got reinvigorated after the failure of After Earth,” he explained. “I stopped working for a year and a half. I had to dive into why it was so important for me to have number-one movies.”

Smith’s outlook on succeeding in all areas of his life, he said, wasn’t that healthy. “I was a guy who, when I was fifteen my girlfriend cheated on me, and I decided that if I was number one, no woman would ever cheat on me. All I have to do is make sure that no one’s ever better than me and I’ll have the love that my heart yearns for,” he noted.

The actor added, “And I never released that and moved into a mature way of looking at the world and my artistry and love until the failure of After Earth, when I had to accept that it’s not a good source of creation.”

Jaden Smith and Will Smith attend the 'After Earth' premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater on May 29, 2013
Jaden Smith and Will Smith | Jim Spellman/WireImage

Will Smith Revealed Why He Turned Down ‘Men in Black’ and Who Changed His Mind

Will Smith said he didn’t push his son into acting

In a 2013 interview with New York Magazine, Smith explained how he and wife Jada Pinkett Smith didn’t influence Jaden’s decision to be an actor.

“It may seem like we have pushed our kids into the business, but that is absolutely insane,” Smith shared at the time. “I would never, ever, push somebody to have their face on a poster that’s going be everywhere in the world. He is making a choice from the informed.”

Despite allowing his son to make the choice for himself, Smith admitted that an acting career was something he was equipped to help Jaden with. “It’s less scary to me than if he wanted to be a dentist in that I couldn’t help with what he’d chosen,” he explained. “I have relationships with some of the biggest filmmakers and actors and producers on Earth. So I can be a huge help.”